Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So Many Books, So Little Time!

My head is positively spinning lately with all of the good books that I am either reading, have queued on my nightstand table or want to get from the library. Unfortunately, my reading time is infrequent and short due to, well - you all know - I have a toddler! And if I do have time to do something other than play with him, clean the house, cook a meal, do the laundry, run the errands, etc., I usually choose my knitting because it seems nicer to sit and knit while Jackson plays than to bury my head in a book and ignore him completely. I have no idea how those of you with regular "book reports" on your blogs do it. (I do make a valiant attempt to push through a chapter or two before bed most nights, but...yeah...right...it's usually more like a few pages and then I'm asleep.)

This is why I was so thrilled that my friend pointed out this wonderful little doohickey at Shepherd's Harvest for managing reading AND knitting at the same time! I still have to do a lot of monkey-business to get it to work right and prop the book up, etc., but I actually read the first couple of chapters of a book last night WHILE knitting the colorwork on Jackson's sweater. Score!
And I want to talk about all of these books with you - why I love them so much, why I think you all should read them too, why some of them can change our world - but they're all too jumbled in my head to separate them right now. I like lists, so I'm going to list them out instead. Maybe seeing the list will make me realize that my reading is a little unrealistic these days and that I need to whittle it down...

Currently holding bookmarks:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity and Courage in a World Gone Mad by Frances Moore Lappe
Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club: Recipes, Tips and Stories by Kim Ode
Breadtime: A Down-to-Earth Cookbook for Bakers and Bread Lovers by Susan Jane Cheney

In Queue:
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry
Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno
Don't Throw It, Grow It!: 68 Windowsill Plants from Kitchen Scraps by Deborah Peterson
The [VBAC] Experience: Birth Stories by Parents and Professionals by Lynn Bapti Richards
The Discipline Book by Dr. Sears

(Gee, I guess it's not hard to tell that I'm a crunchy organic momma who wants to change the world and eat good food at the same time?)

I only own four of these books. Six are from the library and most have waiting lists so I can't renew them. I'm so screwed. (One is on loan from a friend.)

And since I'm being completely honest with my reading backlog, I should add Inkspell by Cornelia Funke to the list - the ONE fictional book I currently have going. I love this series (the third comes out this spring, I believe?) so I have no idea why my bookmark has been in this book since 2005. Yes, that's right, 2005. Each time I think I'm just not going to finish it, I pick it up and fall in for a few chapters but then it just gets dusty on the nightstand again. Dan has read it in the meantime and is currently reading the third in German (ahead of the English release date). I was the one who turned him on to the magical Inkworld of Cornelia Funke to begin with and he's going to finish it first! Ack!

Someday I'll tell you what I think about these books. But for now, please feel free to do your own book reports on these titles rather than holding your breath for mine!
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Tomorrow's the last day for entering my Tree Contest! Take a look and let me know what you think. We're definitely still taking opinions on the tree question and even have bookmarks in various tree field guides and catalogs around the house too. So many topics to learn about this spring!

5 comments:

Chris said...

Do you have details about the book holder you bought? The kind I have (a ReadUpon) isn't manufactured anymore, so I'm always looking!

Heh - I'm a single person who has no kids, doesn't watch tv, watches few movies, and is a bit solitary by nature... does that help understand all the reading? :)

Anonymous said...

Please spill the name of the wonder reading/knitting thingy. I want one.......

TinkingBell said...

I love reading and get little time (2 kids) - I love knitting and get little time (2 kids) I want an amazing thingy!

Aunt Jenny said...

I want to get one of those awesome doo hickeys too!!! I am very good at ignoring the tv and knitting, but would love to have a book going at the same time instead of one or the other!!!
I totally understand having a backlog of books to read and being read..I do it all the time.

Mike Vandeman said...

Last Child in the Woods ––
Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,
by Richard Louv
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
November 16, 2006

In this eloquent and comprehensive work, Louv makes a convincing case for ensuring that children (and adults) maintain access to pristine natural areas, and even, when those are not available, any bit of nature that we can preserve, such as vacant lots. I agree with him 100%. Just as we never really outgrow our need for our parents (and grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.), humanity has never outgrown, and can never outgrow, our need for the companionship and mutual benefits of other species.

But what strikes me most about this book is how Louv is able, in spite of 310 pages of text, to completely ignore the two most obvious problems with his thesis: (1) We want and need to have contact with other species, but neither we nor Louv bother to ask whether they want to have contact with us! In fact, most species of wildlife obviously do not like having humans around, and can thrive only if we leave them alone! Or they are able tolerate our presence, but only within certain limits. (2) We and Louv never ask what type of contact is appropriate! He includes fishing, hunting, building "forts", farming, ranching, and all other manner of recreation. Clearly, not all contact with nature leads to someone becoming an advocate and protector of wildlife. While one kid may see a beautiful area and decide to protect it, what's to stop another from seeing it and thinking of it as a great place to build a house or create a ski resort? Developers and industrialists must come from somewhere, and they no doubt played in the woods with the future environmentalists!

It is obvious, and not a particularly new idea, that we must experience wilderness in order to appreciate it. But it is equally true, though ("conveniently") never mentioned, that we need to stay out of nature, if the wildlife that live there are to survive. I discuss this issue thoroughly in the essay, "Wildlife Need Habitat Off-Limits to Humans!", at http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3.

It should also be obvious (but apparently isn't) that how we interact with nature determines how we think about it and how we learn to treat it. Remember, children don't learn so much what we tell them, but they learn very well what they see us do. Fishing, building "forts", mountain biking, and even berry-picking teach us that nature exists for us to exploit. Luckily, my fort-building career was cut short by a bee-sting! As I was about to cut down a tree to lay a third layer of logs on my little log cabin in the woods, I took one swing at the trunk with my axe, and immediately got a painful sting (there must have been a bee-hive in the tree) and ran away as fast as I could.

On page 144 Louv quotes Rasheed Salahuddin: "Nature has been taken over by thugs who care absolutely nothing about it. We need to take nature back." Then he titles his next chapter "Where Will Future Stewards of Nature Come From?" Where indeed? While fishing may bring one into contact with natural beauty, that message can be eclipsed by the more salient one that the fish exist to pleasure and feed humans (even if we release them after we catch them). (My fishing career was also short-lived, perhaps because I spent most of the time either waiting for fish that never came, or untangling fishing line.) Mountain bikers claim that they are "nature-lovers" and are "just hikers on wheels". But if you watch one of their helmet-camera videos, it is easy to see that 99.44% of their attention must be devoted to controlling their bike, or they will crash. Children initiated into mountain biking may learn to identify a plant or two, but by far the strongest message they will receive is that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable. It's not!

On page 184 Louv recommends that kids carry cell phones. First of all, cell phones transmit on essentially the same frequency as a microwave oven, and are therefore hazardous to one's health –- especially for children, whose skulls are still relatively thin. Second, there is nothing that will spoil one's experience of nature faster than something that reminds one of the city and the "civilized" world. The last thing one wants while enjoying nature is to be reminded of the world outside. Nothing will ruin a hike or a picnic faster than hearing a radio or the ring of a cell phone, or seeing a headset, cell phone, or mountain bike. I've been enjoying nature for over 60 years, and can't remember a single time when I felt a need for any of these items.

It's clear that we humans need to reduce our impacts on wildlife, if they, and hence we, are to survive. But it is repugnant and arguably inhumane to restrict human access to nature. Therefore, we need to practice minimal-impact recreation (i.e., hiking only), and leave our technology (if we need it at all!) at home. In other words, we need to decrease the quantity of contact with nature, and increase the quality.

References:

Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species. New York: Random House, 1981.

Errington, Paul L., A Question of Values. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Flannery, Tim, The Eternal Frontier -- An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Foreman, Dave, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

Louv, Richard, Last Child in the Woods -- Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

Vandeman, Michael J., http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande, especially http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/ecocity3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/sc8, and http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/goodall.

Ward, Peter Douglas, The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

"The Wildlands Project", Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

Wilson, Edward O., The Future of Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.